Balcony container gardeners often have shady garden conditions, which limit the types of plants they can grow. If you have shade, there may be ways to work with the shade instead of against it. Here are some suggestions for four common types of shady balconies.
1. North-Facing Balconies. North-facing balcony gardens, as long as they do not have trees or walls blocking light, can have more light-loving container plants than other balcony gardens. There should be several spots on the balcony that will get more sun than others, so keep container plants that need more sun in these sunnier spots (which are usually toward the outer edge of the balcony or hanging off the roof’s awning). Every gardener should know the sun distribution in his or her container garden.
2. Balconies Under Pines.
If you have pine trees beyond your balcony garden, watch for pine needles dropping into the potting soil. Pine needles will acidify your soil over time. Take care to remove needles if you have plants who do not like acidic conditions. If you have a problem with lots of pine needles and do not want to keep removing them, azaleas, hosta, astilbe, heuchera, columbine, bleeding heart and some other perennials would thrive in a shady balcony garden with acidic soil.
3. Cool, Damp Balconies. If you don’t live in a hot, dry area and can provide more damp conditions, northeast-facing balcony gardens are great for ferns and shade perennials. Cacti and succulent plants won’t do well in these areas.
4. Balconies with Walls and Awnings. Very dark balconies are problematic, so keep your light-loving plants in hanging containers off of the awnings, and keep indoor plants that can tolerate your outdoor temperatures on the inner portion of the balcony. Pothos, spider plants, bush lily, peace lilies, etc., will tolerate extremely low light.
Tip: To perk up your shady garden, use variegated foliage. Multicolored leaves will brighten up darker areas and break up the monotony of solid green foliage.
If you become jealous of beautiful blooming gardens bathed in sun, don’t forget that shadier balcony gardens do have their upsides. First of all, the hot sun won’t penetrate into your apartment and create heat inside for you! On the balcony, you will have to water the plants less and won’t have to worry about the hot sun scorching your plants’ foliage.
For some great container plants for shady balcony gardens, read "25 Plants for Shady Balconies."